We statheads like when we can put things into tidy boxes. Pitcher X posts Y peripherals for expected result of Z. Buy or don’t buy accordingly. But not every pitcher is polite enough to reveal his true nature to us. That doesn’t mean we can’t leverage him for fantasy purposes; it just means that it’s hard to know how to leverage him.
That’s the case with Dillon Gee. He looked easy enough to understand after 2012, when he posted a decent strikeout rate (7.96 K/9), strong walk rate (2.38 BB/9), generated ground balls over half the time, and posted a tolerable 4.10 ERA that was worse than his 3.54 xFIP. But he took a step back in 2013. His ERA improved to 3.62, this time with a 4.07 xFIP, but his strikeout rate plummeted to 6.42 K/9. It’s hard to roster a pitcher with that low of a strikeout rate in 5×5 leagues.
Within those 2013 numbers is a lot of noise. First and foremost, Gee reportedly pitched much if not all of the season with elbow tendinitis. It’s tough to even guess how much this injury affected his performance because we don’t even know the start and end dates. For what it’s worth, Gee is considered to have a 37 percent chance to land on the disabled list in 2014 according to Jeff Zimmerman, but that’s only relevant if you plan to draft him.
April was Gee’s worst month and he also posted poor results over most of May before settling down. Interestingly, were it not for a .394 BABIP, May probably would have been his best month. Gee was solid for the remainder of the season. Beginning in June, he pitched to an ERA under 3.00 although his FIP and xFIP were still in the upper 3’s.
His poor April performance is mirrored by an average velocity just above 88 mph. That’s really just capturing two starts where his velocity was particularly low (87 mph) and it seems possible that his elbow was a bit more painful those days than others. The rest of the season shows consistent variation between 88 and 90 mph.
Gee has a deep five pitch repertoire that he varies based on the handedness of the batter. None of his pitches stand out as particularly dominant, instead he leverages his deep repertoire to full effect. His change-up is probably his best pitch for delivering positive results. He’s had trouble with lefties throughout his short career. They walk nearly twice as often against him as right-handers and they also hit substantially more home runs. Those rates are true for both his career and 2013. As such, fantasy owners should avoid spot starts against lefty heavy lineups.
That takes us to his utility in fantasy leagues. With his spotty track record, he should be available on the waiver wire in standard 12-team leagues. A few owners may draft him for his 3.60 ERA, especially if they remember that he posted ERA’s above 5.00 in April and May. Let them. His inability to reliably record an average strikeout rate makes it inadvisable to own him outright. Not when the remainder of his profile is also slightly below average.
Gee has shown a bit of a home run problem over his 500 innings, with a career 10.4% HR/FB ratio. If last season’s decline in ground ball rate to 43 percent doesn’t improve in 2014, he’ll allow a few too many home runs for comfort. As such, I recommend that you turn to Gee as a spot starter at pitcher friendly ballparks (average or lower home run park factor) against right-handed leaning lineups.
Gee was worth nearly $4 last season according to Zach Sanders – more than Ivan Nova who I recently talked up as a good player to stash. With that in mind, it may seem that I’m being too harsh with my evaluation. Unfortunately for Gee, the data indicate that we should expect an ERA above 4.00 next season. That makes him a below average contributor in ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts, with wins being the usual wild card that they are.
There’s nothing wrong with spending your last dollar on Gee to round out your rotation. For owners in deep leagues where Gee is worthy of a more permanent consideration, don’t forget to pair him with an elite strikeout reliever (or two). Gee does share some characteristics with Nova in that he’s equally talented across all the standard stats. Unlike Nova who’s essentially average across the board, Gee is a bit below average. Gee’s platoon splits also open up the opportunity to leverage him in scenarios where he’ll outperform his overall stats. Nova doesn’t come with that option.